U.S. retailers secure stores as worries about election unrest mount

In this news, we discuss the U.S. retailers secure stores as worries about election unrest mount.

LOS ANGELES / CHICAGO (Reuters) – This time last year shoppers on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile were waiting for Louis Vuitton to launch its whimsical window decorations. Now those same windows are hidden behind a wall of bright orange painted wood panels.

While still open to shoppers, stores like Gucci PRTP.PA, H&M HMb.ST and Nordstrom JWN.N are also closed after looters targeted the city’s notorious retail district in the spring and summer. summer, when protests took hold of more than 100 American cities.

As security experts warn the US presidential election could spark further civil unrest, those stores remain clad in plywood as retailers seek to protect property and workers amid heightened violence on the streets.

“You have to ask, ‘Do we want to be safe? Said Andy, 50, the owner of Vickie’s Nail Salon. The Magnificent Mile store was broken into and robbed in the early morning chaos that erupted after police were shot by a young black man in August.

Andy, refusing to give his full name, has kept plywood on his windows ever since. He also puts a sign on the front door when closing. “Let’s see how things go after the election. If we don’t feel safe, we will have to continue to embark every night.

Aon Plc AON.N, the world’s largest insurance broker, told Reuters that the majority of retail customers surveyed were considering going into stores because they feared looting around the election. MaryAnne Burke, an executive at Aon, said about 70% of those retail customers did so during the protests in May and June.

Many retailers, including Gucci, H&M, Under Armor UAA.N and Apple AAPL.O, declined to comment on their election security plans. More than two dozen security consultants, insurers, contractors and store workers told Reuters the companies were installing toughened glass, hiring security guards or retaining guard crews who barricaded and supervised the buildings.

Retailers are at their wit’s end after looters smash windows, steal merchandise and, at times, torch stores in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Portland and other U.S. cities – often under the guise of peaceful protests of Black Lives Matter which have been revived. by the May 25 police murder of George Floyd, a black man.

Foot Locker FL.N, in its August 21 quarterly report, said it had racked up $ 18 million in costs due to “recent social unrest.” The looters target sneaker vendors like Foot Locker because their products are easy to take away and turn into cash.

After avoiding an engagement for weeks, US President Donald Trump said last week he would accept a peaceful transfer of power if he lost the November 3 presidential election to Democratic challenger Joe Biden. But Trump continued to make statements about electoral fraud and to raise doubts about electoral integrity.

“Companies operating in the United States should anticipate that the risk of social unrest and political violence will remain high before, during and after the next presidential election,” wrote Jonathan Wood, senior analyst at risk consultancy Control Risks.

“It would be foolish to think that the worst is over. We all watch the news, ”said Bob Moraca, director of Rock Security Group and former vice president of loss prevention for the National Retail Federation.

PREPARATION

Construction scaffolding supplier Starr Industries housed Apple’s all-glass “Cube” store on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue behind heavy barricades and chain link fences on June 1. There is now on hold for several companies with stores in this upscale section of New York.

“Because of the election, they fear the same will happen,” said Marian Bobelea, president of Starr. It does not say which companies have retained on-call protection services.

Riot Glass founder Brad Campbell said the safety glass maker and a sister company that installs reinforced windows were rushing to complete work at hundreds of US stores.

“Everyone wants something done before the election,” Campbell said.

Alumatec Pacific Products, which supplies sliding doors used by large retailers, said it sees election-related demand from small businesses like liquor and marijuana stores.

Meanwhile, private provider of security guards Pinkerton SECUb.ST said its hiring increased 50% in Chicago this quarter.

Under Armor has covered the windows of its Magnificent Mile stores with a clear protective film, store manager Kyle Domzalski told Reuters.

Meanwhile, Chicago Police are organizing response drills and warning retailers to step up security, Police Commissioner David Brown said.

Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles, Richa Naidu in Chicago and Nivedita Balu in Bangalore; Editing by Vanessa O’Connell and Cynthia Osterman

Original © Thomson Reuters

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